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The Big Experiment Part 1: Reboot Ad Nauseam May 5, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in The Big Experiment, The Other Side of the Fence.
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Just to get you up to speed if you didn’t read the posting that explains this series, this dyed-in-the-wool Mac loyalist is currently using an IBM/ Lenovo Thinkpad T43 with Windows XP Professional as his office laptop. *shudder*. (The original post is here, if you’re at all interested.)

This series is being written to chronicle my experiences using Windows again, extensively, from a standpoint of a Mac fanboy. I realize there are thousands of you used to working on both (particularly the MacIntel crowd), but this series is for those breast-fed and weaned exclusively on Macs, or former PC users who dropped Windows years ago and haven’t looked back since (or those few impenetrable Mac bigots – you know who you are). A lot of us fanboys tend to snipe and shoot gleefully at the Windows world, often from an uninformed, knee-jerk canned response because we feel that is normally what is expected of us. I have to admit my personal bias sometimes clouds my judgment and it was a great struggle especially in my line of work as a tech review editor.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised most of the time during my first week using the Thinkpad. Let me say right off, those of you looking for smug confirmation of your worst fears won’t get it here. At least not for now.

I guess using a good quality, branded high-end laptop with licensed software colors my impressions greatly. If I had been using a heavy, clunky budget laptop with pirateware I figure my experience would have turned out very differently.

The day I got it, I loaded up the included software from the dedicated partition in the hard disk. It went without a hitch. There were a few tedious configuration hurdles and the inevitable reboots to get the thing running. This included enrolling some of my fingers for the biometric security software that was a novelty at first. (More on this in a bit.) The first sign that I was in for a long and drawn out process was when the upgrading of the system software started.

This being a year-old model, the built-in software was of course behind the times, and the machine made me go through hoops through numerous upgrades and updates, which was for some reason not packaged in one ginormous update but doled out in bits and pieces, some big, some small, and most of them requiring me to restart the system. For the platform rebooting ad nauseam was par for the course even until now; nothing had changed. This was made a bit more unbearable by the fact that the biometric system had me scan my finger in before it could reboot, and back then I was still getting the hang of it; I must have have scraped off several layers of skin from my fingers on the sensor by the time I was through.

(A quick aside: in the event that it can’t read your fingers for one reason or another, the system allows you to just bypass it by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and typing in your password. Which makes me realize that Lenovo completely misses the point, and for them the biometric shtick is just a fancy, dispensable gimmick meant to sell a few more units to impressionable geeks.)

It took quite a while to finish, but that was apparently just the beginning. Then Windows got into the act and began automatically updating itself, using the same modus operandi that ThinkVantage (which is what the Lenovo folk dubbed the upgrading system) just made me do: jump through hoops and endless reboots. Fifteen months worth of Windows updates is no joke; I’m just glad that being certified legal and genuine by Microsoft, I got full and unimpeded access to megabytes upon megabytes of, uh,  “improvements”. It was slow going; I nodded off many times, waking up often just to swipe my finger on the biometric scanner so the darned thing could finish rebooting.

Then there was that the other little matter: getting proper shareware versions of basic anti-virus and anti-spyware programs that are required for basic everyday existence on this platform. The included free program from Norton was free for only six months after installation. I said, forget it. In hindsight I thought this was the first thing I should have done, but the laptop launched into Update Mode almost instantaneously after the first proper reboot, and I just dove in without thinking. Thankfully, a quick check with the new software showed no harm done.

I finally got my Thinkpad T43 to a more or less updated, decent, secure working condition after a day or two. I suppose this is the process most Windows users go through more or less, so I figure I shouldn’t bitch too much about it. So far so good anyway.

I’m just glad Apple doesn’t make us go through this circus, and that save for a few critical and fundamental system upgrades, we don’t usually need to restart the computer for each and every little modification.

NEXT: It’s The Little Things

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